I love living within walking distance of the Sandringham shops. I love scoffing galettes and sipping rich hot chocolate or Algerian mint tea at Voila, I love stocking up on cashew nuts, pistanchio kernels, blanched almonds, creamy yoghurt and Bulgarian cheeses at the Indian grocery stores for a fraction of the price I pay at the supermarket. I love being assailed in said stores by the heady smell of 100 different spices at once and I don’t even mind the fact that one of the stores almost always overcharges me by a couple of dollars – it’s all part of the fun really.
The Sandringham shops – the small strip on either side of Sandringham Road about 1km before you reach Mount Albert Road – must surely be the most concentrated collection of Indian-owned spice shops and restaurants in the country. If anyone can think of anywhere else, please let me know. This is where the perenially popular Satya began it’s mushrooming journey, from one tiny, shabby wee restaurant to three now dotted round central Auckland, luring Ponsonby types with delicate dal puri.
Step into Khyber Spices or Top N Town grocer’s and go nutty – whole almonds or cashew pieces for $9.99/kilo – you’ll pay at least twice if not three times that at the supermarket. I love toasting cashew pieces, chopping them in the blender and then using them in dips (like my Beetroot & Cashew Dip, recipe to come). Or throw toasted cashew pieces into fried rice or salads for a little crunch and flavour. Blanched almonds, too, for around $10/kilo. Toast these whole with a bit of olive oil and flaky sea salt for a classic Spanish tapa – enjoy with a tannin-y red or a sherry. But best of all – so good I’m tempted to keep it secret – is the Bulgarian feta at Khyber Spice. Choose from cow, sheep or goat’s feta and pay between $10-15/ kilo. Amazing. I buy loads of the goat’s and sheep’s feta and use them in just about everything. At that price, why wouldn’t you? – SWEET